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Transcript: Clinton's Opening Statement At Senate Hearing

CQ Transcripts Wire
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:42 PM

CLINTON: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And as he's leaving, I want to thank Senator Schumer for that generous introduction and even more for his support and our partnership over so many years.

He's been a valued and trusted colleague, a friend and a tribute to the people of New York whom he has served with such distinction.

Mr. Chairman, I join in offering my congratulations as you take on this new role. You've traveled quite a distance from that day back in 1971 when you testified here as a young Vietnam veteran.

You have never faltered in your care and concern for our nation, its foreign policy and its future, and America is in good hands with you leading this committee.

Always and especially in the crucible of these global challenges, our overriding duty is to protect and advance America's security, interests and values, to keep our people, our nation and our allies secure, to promote economic growth and shared prosperity at home and abroad, and to strengthen America's position of global leadership so we remain a positive force in the world, whether in working to preserve the health of our planet or expanding opportunity for people on the margins whose progress and prosperity will add to our own.

Our world has undergone an extraordinary transformation in the last two decades. In 1989, a wall fell and old barriers began to crumble after 40 years of a Cold War that had influenced every aspect of our foreign policy. By 1999, the rise of more democratic and open societies, the expanding reach of world markets, and the explosion of information technology had made globalization the word of the day.

For most people, it had primarily an economic connotation, but, in fact, we were already living in a profoundly interdependent world in which old rules and boundaries no longer held fast, a world in which both the promise and the peril of the 21st century could not be contained by national borders or vast distances.

Economic growth lifted more people out of poverty faster than at any time in our history, but economic crises can sweep across the globe even more quickly. A coalition of nations stopped ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, but the conflict in the Middle East continues to inflame tensions from Africa to Asia. Non-state actors fight poverty, improve health, and expand education in the poorest parts of the world, while other non-state actors traffic in drugs, children, and women and kill innocent civilians across the globe.

Now, in 2009, the clear lesson of the last 20 years is that we must both combat the threats and seize the opportunities of our interdependence, and to be effective in doing so, we must build a world with more partners and fewer adversaries. America cannot solve the most pressing problems on our own, and the world cannot solve them without America.

The best way to advance America's interests in reducing global threats and seizing global opportunities is to design and implement global solutions. That isn't a philosophical point. This is our reality.

The president-elect and I believe that foreign policy must be based on a marriage of principles and pragmatism, not rigid ideology, on facts and evidence, not emotion or prejudice. Our security, our vitality, and our ability to lead in today's world oblige us to recognize the overwhelming facts of our interdependence.

I believe that American leadership has been wanting, but is still wanted. We must use what has been called smart power, the full range of tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, political, legal, and cultural -- picking the right tool or combination of tools for each situation. With smart power, diplomacy will be the vanguard of our foreign policy. This is not a radical idea. The Ancient Roman poet Terence declared that "In every endeavor, the seemly course for wise men is to try persuasion first." The same truth binds wise women as well.

I assure you that if I am confirmed, the State Department will be firing on all cylinders to provide forward-thinking, sustained diplomacy in every part of the world, applying pressure wherever it may be needed, but also looking for opportunities: exerting leverage; cooperating with our military and other agencies of government; partnering with non-governmental organizations, the private sector, and international organizations; using modern technologies for public outreach; empowering negotiators who can protect our interests while understanding those of our negotiating partners. Diplomacy is hard work, but when we work hard, diplomacy can work, not just to defuse tensions, but to achieve results that advance our security interests and values.

Secretary Gates, as the chairman said, has been particularly eloquent in articulating the importance of diplomacy. As he notes, it's not often that a secretary of defense makes the case for adding resources to the State Department and elevating the role of the diplomatic corps. Thankfully Secretary Gates is more concerned about having a unified, agile, and effective U.S. strategy than in spending precious time and energy on petty turf wars. As he has stated, "Our civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long." That is a statement that I can only heartily say amen to.

With both Russia and China we should work together on vital security and economic issues like terrorism, proliferation, climate change, and reforming financial markets.

The world is now, as Senator Dodd said, in the crosscurrents of the most severe global economic contraction since the Great Depression. The history of that crisis teaches us the consequences of diplomatic failures and uncoordinated reactions.

We have already seen this crisis extend beyond the housing and banking sectors, and our solutions will have to be as wide in scope as the causes themselves, taking into account the complexities of the global economy, the geopolitics, and the continued political and economic repercussions from the damage already done.

But here again, as we work to repair the damage we can find new ways of working together. For too long we've merely talked about the need to engage emerging powers in global economic governance. The time to take action is upon us.

The recent G-20 meeting that President Bush hosted was a first step. But developing patterns of sustained engagement will take hard work and careful negotiation. We know that emerging markets like China and India, Brazil and South Africa and Indonesia are feeling the effects of the current crisis. And we all stand to benefit, in both the short and long term, if they are part of the solution and become partners in maintaining global economic stability.

In our efforts to return to economic growth here in the United States, we have an especially critical need to work more closely with Canada, our largest trading partner, and Mexico, our third largest.

Canada and Mexico are also our biggest suppliers of imported energy. More broadly, we must build a deeper partnership with Mexico to address the shared dangers arising from drug trafficking and the challenges along our border, an effort begun this week with the meeting between President-elect Obama and President Calderon.

Throughout our hemisphere, we have opportunities to enhance our relationships that will benefit all of us. We will return to a policy of vigorous involvement, partnership even, with Latin America, from the Caribbean to Central America to South America. We share common political, economic, and strategic interests with our friends to the south, as well as many of our citizens who share ancestral and cultural legacies. We're looking forward to working on many issues during the Summit of the Americas in April and taking up the president-elect's call for a new energy partnership around shared technology and new investments in renewable energy.

And in Africa the foreign policy objectives of the Obama administration are rooted in security, political, economic and humanitarian interests, including combating Al Qaida's efforts to seek save havens in failed states in the Horn of Africa, helping African nations conserve their natural resources and reaping fair benefits from them, stopping war in the Congo, ending autocracy in Zimbabwe and human devastation in Darfur.

But we also intend to support the African democracies like South Africa and Ghana, which just had its second peaceful change of power in a democratic election. We must work hard with our African friends to reach the millennium development goals in health education and economic opportunity.

Many significant problems we face will challenge us not only on a bilateral basis but all nations.

You, Mr. Chairman, were among the very first in a growing chorus from both parties to recognize that climate change is an unambiguous security threat. At the extreme, it threatens our very existence. But well before that point, it could well incite new wars of an old kind over basic resources like food, water, and arable land.

President-elect Obama has said America must be a leader in developing and implementing a global and coordinated effort to climate change. We will participate in the upcoming UN Copenhagen climate conference and a global energy forum and will pursue an energy policy that reduces our carbon emissions while reducing our dependence on foreign oil and gas, fighting climate change and enhancing our economic and energy security.

George Marshall noted that our gravest enemies are often not nations or doctrines but hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos. So to create more friends and fewer enemies, we must find common ground and common purpose with other peoples and nations to overcome hatred, violence, lawlessness, and despair.

The Obama administration recognizes that even when we cannot fully agree with some governments we share a bond of humanity with their people. By investing in that common humanity, we advance our common security.

Mr. Chairman, you were one of the first, again, to underscore the importance of our involvement in the global AIDS fight. Now, thanks to a variety of efforts, including President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, as well as the work of NGOs and foundations, the United States enjoys widespread support in public opinion polls in many African countries. Even among Muslim populations in Tanzania and Kenya, America is seen as a leader in the fight against AIDS, malaria, and TB. We have an opportunity to build on this success by partnering with NGOs to help expand health clinics in Africa so more people can have access to lifesaving drugs, fewer mothers transmit HIV to their children, and fewer lives are lost.

We can generate more goodwill through other kinds of social investments, again partnering with international organizations and NGOs, to build schools and train teachers. The president-elect supports a global education fund to bolster secular education around the world.

I want to emphasize the importance to us of this bottoms-up approach. The president-elect and I believe in this so strongly: Investing in our common humanity through social development is not marginal to our foreign policy but essential to the realization of our goals.

More than two billion people worldwide live on less than $2 a day. They're facing rising food prices and widespread hunger. We have to expand civil and political rights in countries that are plagued by poverty, hunger, and disease. But our pleas will fall on deaf ears unless democracy actually improves people's lives while weeding out the corruption that too often stands in the way of progress.

Our foreign policy must reflect our deep commitment to help millions of oppressed people around the world. And of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls, who comprise the majority of the world's unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid. If half the world's population remains vulnerable to economic, political, legal and social marginalization, our hope of advancing democracy and prosperity is in serious jeopardy. The United States must be an unequivocal and unwavering voice in support of women's rights in every country on every continent.

As a personal aside, I want to mention that President-elect Obama's mother, Ann Dunham, was a pioneer in microfinance in Indonesia. In my own work on microfinance around the world, from Bangladesh to Chile to Viet Nam to South Africa and many other countries, I've seen firsthand how small loans given to poor women to start businesses can raise standards of living and transform local economies.

The president-elect's mother had planned to attend a microfinance forum at the Beijing Women's Conference in 1995 that I participated in. Unfortunately, she was very ill and couldn't travel and, sadly, passed away a few months later. But I think it's fair to say that her work in international development, the care and concern she showed for women and for poor people around the world, mattered greatly to her son, our president-elect. And I believe that it has certainly informed his views and his vision. We will be honored to carry on Ann Dunham's work in the years ahead.

Mr. Chairman, I know we'll address many issues in the question and answer session. But I want to underscore a final point. Ensuring that our State Department is functioning at its best is absolutely essential to America's success. The president-elect and I believe strongly that we need to invest in our capacity to conduct vigorous American diplomacy, provide the kind of foreign assistance that I've mentioned, reach out to the world, and operate effectively alongside our military.

Now, the entire State Department bureaucracy in Thomas Jefferson's day consisted of a chief clerk, three regular clerks and a messenger. And its entire budget was $56,000 a year.

But over the past 219 years, the world has certainly changed. Now the department consists of Foreign Service officers, the civil services, and our locally engaged staff, working not only at Foggy Bottom but in offices across our country and in some 260 posts around the world. And USAID carries out its critical development missions in some of the most difficult places on our earth.

These public servants are too often the unsung heroes. They are in the trenches putting our policies and values to work in a complicated and dangerous world. Many risk their lives, and some have lost their lives in service to our nation. They need and deserve the resources, training and support to succeed.

I know this committee, and I hope the American public, understands that Foreign Service officers and civil service professionals and development experts are doing invaluable work. And it is the work of the American people, whether helping American businesses make inroads in new markets or being on the other end of the phone when someone gets in trouble beyond our shores, needs a passport, needs advice at an embassy, or doing the delicate work of diplomacy and development with foreign governments that leads to arms control and trade agreements, peace treaties and post-conflict reconstruction, standing up for greater human rights and empowerment, broader cultural understanding and building alliances.

State Department is a large, multidimensional organization but not the placid, idle bureaucracy that some have suggested. It is an outpost for American values that protects our citizens and safeguards our democratic institutions in times both turbulent and tame. State Department employees offer a lifeline of hope and help, often the only lifeline for people in foreign lands who are oppressed, silenced and marginalized. We must not shortchange them or ourselves.

One of my first priorities is to make sure that the State Department and USAID have the resources they need, and I will be back to make the case to the committee for full funding of the president's budget requests. But I will work just as hard to make sure we manage those resources prudently, efficiently and effectively.

You know, like most Americans, when I was growing up I never had the chance to travel widely. Most of my early professional career was as a lawyer and an advocate for children and the poor who found themselves disadvantaged here at home.

But during the eight years of my husband's presidency and now eight years as the senator from New York, I have been privileged to travel on behalf of our country. And I've had the opportunity to get to know many world leaders.

As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I've spent time with our military commanders as well as our brave troops. I've immersed myself in a number of military issues. And I've spent many hours with American and non-American aid workers, business men and women, religious leaders, teachers, doctors, nurses, students, volunteers, all who have made it their mission to help other people across the world. And I've seen countless ordinary people in foreign capitals, small towns and rural villages who live in a world far removed from our experiences.

In recent years, as other nations have risen to compete for military, economic, and political influence, some have argued that we have reached the end of the American moment in world history. Well, I disagree.

Yes, the conventional paradigms have shifted. But America's success has never been solely a function of our power. It has always been rooted in and inspired by our values.

With so many troubles here at home and around the world, millions of people are still trying to come to this country, legally and illegally. Why? Because we are guided by unchanging truths: that all people are created equal, that each person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

And in these truths we will find, as we have for more than two centuries, the courage, the discipline and the creativity to meet the challenges of this ever-changing world.

I am humbled to be a public servant and honored by the responsibility placed on me should I be confirmed by our president- elect who embodies the American dream, not only here at home but far beyond our shores.

No matter how daunting the challenges may be, I have a steadfast faith in this country and in our people. And I am proud to be an American at the dawning of this new American moment.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and members of this committee for granting me your time and attention today. I know there's a lot more territory to cover, and I'd be delighted to answer your questions.

President-elect Obama has emphasized that the State Department must be fully empowered and funded to confront multidimensional challenges from thwarting terrorism to spreading health and prosperity in places of human suffering, and I will speak in greater detail about that in a moment.

We should also use the United Nations and other institutions whenever possible and appropriate. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have understood that these institutions, when they work well, enhance our influence, and when they don't work well, as in the cases of Darfur and the farce of Sudan's election to the former U.N. Commission on Human Rights, we should work with like-minded friends to make them more effective.

We will lead with diplomacy because that's the smart approach, but we also know that military force will sometimes be necessary, and we will rely on it to protect our people and our interests when and where needed as a last resort. All the while, we must remember that to promote our interests around the world, America must be an exemplar of our values.

Senator Isakson made the point to me the other day that our nation must lead by example rather than edict. Our history has shown that we are most effective when we see the harmony between our interests abroad and our values at home. Our first secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, subscribed to that view, reminding us across the centuries, "The interests of a nation when well understood will be found to coincide with their moral duties."

Senator Lugar, I'm going to borrow your words here, too. As you said, "The United States cannot feed every person, lift every person out of poverty, cure every disease, or stop every conflict, but our power and status have conferred upon us a tremendous responsibility to humanity."

Of course, we must be realistic. Even under the best of circumstances, our nation cannot solve every problem or meet every global need. We don't have unlimited time, treasure, or manpower, especially with our own economy faltering and our budget deficits growing. So, to fulfill our responsibility to our children, to protect and defend our nation, while honoring our values, we have to establish priorities.

I'm not trying to mince words here. As my colleagues in the Senate know, establishing priorities means making tough choices. Because these choices are so important to the American people, we must be disciplined in evaluating them, weighing the costs and consequences of action or inaction, gauging the probability of success, and insisting on measurable results.

Right after I was nominated, a friend told me, "The world has so many problems. You've got your work cut out for you." Well, I agree, but I don't get up every morning thinking only about the threats and dangers we face. In spite of all the adversity and complexity, there are so many opportunities for America out there, calling forth the optimism and can-do spirit that has marked our progress for more than two centuries.

Too often, we see the ills that plague us more clearly than the possibilities in front of us, but it is the real possibility of progress, of that better life free from fear and want and discord, that offers our most compelling message to the rest of the world.

I've had the chance to lay out and submit my views on a broad array of issues and written responses to questions from the committee. So this statement will only outline some of the major challenges we face and the major opportunities we see as well.

First, President-elect Obama is committed to responsibly ending the war in Iraq and employing a broad strategy in Afghanistan that reduces threats to our safety and enhances the prospects of stability and peace. Right now, our men and women in uniform, our diplomats, and our aid workers are risking their lives in these two countries. They have done everything we have asked of them and more.

But, over time, our larger interests will be best served by safely and responsibly withdrawing our troops from Iraq, supporting a transition to full Iraqi responsibility for their sovereign nation, rebuilding our overtaxed military, and reaching out to other nations to help stabilize the region and employ a broader arsenal of tools to fight terrorism. We will use all the elements of our power -- diplomacy, development, and defense -- to work with those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who want to root out Al Qaida, the Taliban, and other violent extremists who threaten them as well as us in what President-elect Obama has called the central front in the fight against terrorism.

As we focus on Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, we must also actively pursue a strategy of smart power in the Middle East that addresses the security needs of Israel and the legitimate political and economic aspirations of the Palestinians; that effectively challenges Iran to end its nuclear weapons program and its sponsorship of terror; and persuade both Iran and Syria to abandon their dangerous behavior and become constructive regional actors; and that also strengthens our relationship with Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, other Arab states, along with Turkey and our partners in the Gulf, to involve them in securing a lasting peace in the region.

As intractable as the Middle East problems may seem -- and many presidents, including my husband, have spent years trying to work out a resolution -- we cannot give up on peace. The president-elect and I understand and are deeply sympathetic to Israel's desire to defend itself under the current conditions and to be free of shelling by Hamas rockets.

However, we have also been reminded of the tragic humanitarian cost of conflict in the Middle East and pained by the suffering of Palestinian and Israeli civilians. This must only increase our determination to seek a just and lasting peace agreement that brings real security to Israel; normal and positive relations with its neighbors; independence, economic progress, and security to the Palestinians in their own states.

We will exert every effort to support the work of Israelis and Palestinians who seek that result. It is critical not only to the parties involved, but to undermining the forces of alienation and violent extremism around the world.

For terrorism, we must have a comprehensive strategy, levering intelligence, diplomacy, and military assets to defeat Al Qaida and other terrorist groups by rooting out their networks and drying up their support for violent and nihilistic extremism.

The gravest threat that America faces is the danger that weapons of mass destruction will fall into the hands of terrorists. We must curb the spread and use of these weapons -- nuclear, biological, chemical, or cyber -- and prevent the development and use of dangerous new weapons. Therefore, while defending against the threat of terrorism, we will also seize the parallel opportunity to get America back in the business of engaging other nations to reduce nuclear stockpiles.

The Nonproliferation Treaty is the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime, and the United States must exercise leadership needed to shore it up. So we will seek agreements with Russia to secure further reductions in weapons under START, we will work with this committee and the Senate toward ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and we will dedicate efforts to revive negotiations on a verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty.

At the same time, we will continue to work to prevent proliferation in North Korea and Iran, to secure loose nuclear weapons and materials, and to shut down the market for selling them, as Senator Lugar has pushed for so many years.

These threats, however, cannot be addressed in isolation. Smart power requires reaching out to both friends and adversaries to bolster old alliances and to forge new ones. That means strengthening the alliances that have stood the test of time, especially with our NATO partners and our allies in Asia. Our alliance with Japan is a cornerstone of American policy in Asia, essential to maintaining peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific region, and based on shared values and mutual interests.

We also have crucial economic and security partnerships with South Korea, Australia, and other friends in ASEAN. We will build on our economic and political partnership with India, the world's most populous democracy and a nation with growing influence in the world. Our traditional relationships of confidence and trust with Europe will be deepened. Disagreements are inevitable, but on most global issues, we have no more trusted allies.

The new administration will reach out across the Atlantic to leaders in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and others, including and especially the new democracies.

President-elect Obama and I seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government on matters of strategic importance while standing strongly for American values and international norms.

China is critically important as an actor who will be changing the global landscape. We want a positive and cooperative relationship with China, one where we deepen and strengthen our ties on a number of issues and candidly address differences where they persist. But this is not a one-way effort. Much of what we will do depends on the choices China makes about its future at home and abroad.

And, Senator Lugar, I look forward to working with you on a wide range of issues, especially those of greatest concern to you, including the Nunn-Lugar initiative.

And let me say a word to Senator Voinovich because of his announcement yesterday. I want to commend you for your service to the people of Ohio and I ask for your help in the next two years on the management issues that you have long championed.

It is an honor and a privilege to be here this morning as President-elect Obama's nominee for secretary of state. I am deeply grateful for the trust and keenly aware of the responsibility that the president-elect has placed in me to serve our country and to serve our people at a time of such grave dangers and great possibilities.

If confirmed, I will accept the duties of the office with gratitude, humility and firm determination to represent the United States as energetically and faithfully as I can.

At the same time, I must confess that sitting across the table from so many colleagues brings me sadness, too. I love the Senate and if you confirm me for this new role, it will be hard to say goodbye to so many members, Republicans and Democrats, whom I have come to know, admire and respect deeply, and to this institution where I have been so proud to serve on behalf of the people of New York through some very difficult days over the past eight years.

But I assure you I will be in frequent consultation and conversation with the members of this committee, the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Appropriations Committees, and with Congress as a whole, and I look forward to working with my good friend, Vice President-elect Biden, who has been a valued colleague and a very valued chairman of this committee.

For me, consultation is not a catch word. It is a commitment. The president-elect and I believe that we must return to the time honored principle of bipartisanship in our foreign policy, an approach that has served our nation well.

I look forward to working with all of you to renew America's leadership through diplomacy that enhances our security, advances our interests, and reflects our values.

Today, our nation and our world face great peril from ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the continuing threats posed by terrorist extremists, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, from the dangers of climate change to pandemic disease, from financial meltdowns to worldwide poverty.

The 70 days since the presidential election offer fresh evidence of these challenges, new conflict in Gaza, terrorist attacks in Mumbai, mass killings and rapes in the Congo, cholera in Zimbabwe, record high greenhouse gases and rapidly melting glaciers, and even an ancient form of terror -- piracy -- asserting itself in modern form off the Horn of Africa.

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